With the news that a new COVID-19 variant has been discovered, Governor Hochul issued a warning to New York residents. The new Omicron variant was found in South Africa initially but has since shown up in Israel, Botswana, and Hong Kong.

As many regions across New York State are already struggling to keep the Delta variant under control, Governor Hochul issued a statement on the new variant,

We are closely monitoring the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, also known as the Omicron variant. The Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory will continue to actively monitor COVID-19 virus samples selected from throughout New York State to compare sequences and identify circulating and new variants. While we have not yet identified any Omicroncases, we are not surprised that new variants are emerging and may likely end up in New York. We will continue to monitor WHO actions and work with our partners at the CDC to keep a close eye on developments.

Here's what we know about the Omicron variant so far,

1. It originated in South Africa and has since been found in Great Britain, Isreal, and other countries,

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021.

Photo by Jacques Nel on Unsplash
Photo by Jacques Nel on Unsplash
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2. According to the World Health Organization the Omicron variant has many mutations,

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
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3. Omicron poses a higher threat of reinfection,

Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.

Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash
Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash
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4. Omicron seems to have the potential to spread at a faster rate than other variants of COVID-19,

This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
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5. The WHO is reminding people that previous safety protocols should remain in place to help prevent infection from Omicron,

Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash
Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash
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6. The doctor who first discovered the Omicron variant, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, says the symptoms, so far, have been mild,

What we are seeing clinically in South Africa — and remember I’m at the epicenter of this where I’m practicing — is extremely mild, for us [these are] mild cases. We haven’t admitted anyone, I’ve spoken to other colleagues of mine and they give the same picture.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Photo by CDC on Unsplash
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